Jeff Brown

Q&A with Jeffrey Brown, executive director, Practice Greenhealth

January 12, 2015
by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor
In August, Jeffrey Brown was brought on board to lead Practice Greenhealth. HealthCare Business News spoke with him to learn about his background as well as the nonprofit organization’s plans for the future.

HCBN: Where were you prior to Practice Greenhealth?
I worked in social responsibility and environmental responsibility in different ways. First, for 25 years I worked in the for-profit world of international shipping and supply chain management, including as the head of global supply chain operations for Chiquita Banana.

My area was heavily asset intensive, and I drove changes in infrastructure design, operating practices, and procurement in aggressive pursuit of an environmentally and socially responsible approach to our work. I was part of an industry effort, BSR’s Clean Cargo Working Group, to assess, measure, and improve environmental performance across the international shipping sector. It was great work – fulfilling, enjoyable, and with a purpose that resonated with me.

In 2006, I moved on and spent four years consulting in shipping and logistics strategic areas, including environmental and social responsibility. Then, after living in Belgium for years, I moved back to the U.S. and served as president and CEO of a small Minnesota organization that developed community-managed water, sanitation and hygiene projects in Haiti. From there, I moved to Practice Greenhealth.

HCBN: How does Practice Greenhealth work for a more Eco-conscious health care culture?
We work with health care systems and suppliers to the health care sector. They’re members of Practice Greenhealth and enrollees in HHI. We help them improve patient and environmental health through programs like education, best practice sharing, and case studies, and by being a source of information across a wide range of sustainability program areas. Our work is in the healthcare marketplace and our community impact is achieved through our members in that marketplace.

As an example, one of our focus areas is to help increase market penetration of environmentally preferred products and services. Through our Healthier Hospitals Initiative(HHI) we recently brought some of the sector’s leading hospitals systems together with furniture manufacturers to help expand the use of toxin-free furnishings in hospitals. We literally had these leading players in a room for the discussion – five or six health systems and five or six manufacturers. There was very focused, open discussion about the issues, the opportunities, and challenges, and we effectively made it easier for the suppliers and the buyers to specify, select and sell/buy the environmentally-preferred furnishings they both wanted in the transaction. I think the exciting aspect of it was that it was so effective because our approach was so practical.

HCBN: How do you help educate health care professionals about products?
As we work with suppliers and buyers of environmentally preferable products or services, we strive to develop a way of thinking about the human and environmental health risks that practices, products or services might have. We leverage the knowledge and experience of one member to help another, focusing on what attributes make a product healthy so the suppliers and customers can make informed business plans and decisions.

We also recognize that healthcare systems and their suppliers come to us to help them make strides in their sustainability performance. Nobody’s perfect, and we like to say we meet our members where they are on their sustainable journey — we help them assess their sustainability position, set priorities, and promote a path of continuing improvement. We believe working with, and talking with, market participants is a more effective approach of driving change than talking at them.

HCBN: Can you talk about any big news over the past year for the organization?
One of our member health systems became energy independent. We also issued our 2013 Sustainability Benchmark Report. Meanwhile, HHI has had a lot of uptake, with more than a thousand hospitals enrolled. This is helping more hospitals get started on their sustainability journey.

HCBN: What’s the top priority for hospitals looking to be more "green?"
Instilling a commitment to environmental management and sustainability as part of the organization’s culture – making it a natural part of their strategic thinking, their decision-making, and their actions. This is what will lead to healthier patients, staff, communities, and to healthier financials.

We believe that working across the industry is going to drive change faster than everyone doing it on their own. Practice Greenhealth / HHI is the organization making that happen.